US announces G8 summit venue switch

US announces G8 summit venue switch

The White House abruptly announced that it had scuttled plans to hold the coming G8 economic summit in Chicago and would instead host world leaders at the presidential retreat at Camp David in Maryland's mountains north of Washington.

It was an unusually late location change for a large and highly scripted international summit and came with little explanation from the White House.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, the former White House chief of staff who personally lobbied President Barack Obama to hold the summit in Chicago, was informed of the change only yesterday.

White House national security spokesman Tommy Vietor simply said Camp David, the rustic mountain retreat at an altitude 1,840 feet and 62 miles from Washington, was a setting that would allow for more intimate discussions among the G8 leaders.

He said security and the possibility of protests were not factors in the decision, noting that Mr Obama still would host the Nato summit in his Chicago hometown on May 20-21.

The White House said the G8 summit would take place from May 18-19.

The White House announced plans last summer to hold both summits back-to-back in Chicago, giving the president a high-profile opportunity to tout his foreign policy and diplomatic credentials on his home turf in an election year.

The idea of moving the G8 to Camp David was raised to the president a few weeks ago, a senior administration official said, adding that the president was intrigued by the novelty of the idea and asked staff whether they could pull off the change.

Adding to the curious nature of the White House announcement was that Mr Obama rarely spends time at his presidential retreat. Unlike many of his predecessors, Mr Obama never has hosted a world leader at Camp David.

The announcement appeared to catch many in Chicago by surprise.

A spokeswoman for Mr Emanuel said the Chicago mayor was informed about the location change in a Monday phone call from a White House official.

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